Public relations was born and thrived for many years on the wave of mass media - newspapers, television news, and magazines, for example. It's quite logical to think that if you get someone else to talk about how great your company is, then you are much more likely to gain public trust. Gaining trust helps you sell your products better.
In a connected world, citizen journalists will also begin and continue to gain credibility and trust. While the demands for news of so many online communities continues to grow, we're already seeing many start to view certain bloggers and peers as filters.
By definition, public relations is the art and science of establishing relationships between your organization and its key audiences. You gain exposure to groups and individuals by using useful topics and timely content directly and through third parties, while no money exchanges hands.
I associate PR closely with branding, they're both about behavior and reputation, sort of the organization infrastructure on top of which sit applications like sales and product development [h/t Ron Shevlin]. In that light, then, how do you do PR without looking like you're selling something?
What do you want from PR?
Decide what kinds of relationships you're looking to develop and also what kind of behaviors you're willing to exhibit. When people talk about transparency, what they're really looking for is if you'll do what you say you'll do. That will be the starting point for a strategy.
What resources are you willing to commit?
I find that by far the greatest challenge organizations face today is that of committing resources to developing relationships at the Grail of leads. The biggest opportunity companies are missing is internal. Do you have a network inside your organization? Whenever I ask this question at events where I speak, no hands go up. Why? Something that is seen as long term with (potentially) no fast results in the short term.
People answer that it's not on their goals to chat someone in development up, for example. Let's not kid ourselves, people, a) if you want to become valued, you need to make the time to mingle with many in the organization at different levels to gain insights into what they know and what your role could be, b) if you want to build relationships, you need to be in it for the long haul.
How are you going to get there? Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. If you set them up that way, you'll be able to track how you're doing towards them. To help with goal setting, start with understanding the people you're trying to reach. What are they looking to learn?
This is usually where the best laid out plans fall apart. If you run a search, you will find that the terms business strategy give you 7.9MM entries (I use inverted commas) and business execution only a little more than 88k. Why the disparity? Everyone likes to be a strategist, yet the money is in the execution - and that's where the hard work is, too.
Execution is not making lame pitches on Twitter.
Re-evaluate goals in light of interim progress
Since we're talking about a long term strategy, it's a good idea to check in on goals frequently so you can adjust your aim and activity mix. I find deltas helpful - two columns, a) What did we do well? b) What could be do better? In much new media the feedback is instantaneous, and public. You'll be able to capture it, if you're listening.
Execute some more
When you deal with the community in a new media space, thus mostly public, demonstrating you learned from feedback gives you major props at the moment. There will come a time when etiquette will be understood, and you'll be held to much closer scrutiny over not respecting the time and attention people and their communities give you.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
More than one year ago, I talked about the Web presence of the future being composed in thirds - community building, marketing, and editorial impact. This diagram will hopefully help you see the intersections. On demand means as pulled by the community or people, when they decide they want it, which doesn't necessarily mean real time. The other two are fairly self-explanatory.
And let's not ever forget that just because we may be trying all these new technologies and adopting them, our customers or the people we're working to build relationships with are, too.
Your conversation. Where do you se the role of PR as being most effective in the next Web?
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